Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Thursday came to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) with a shopping list of more than US$200 million as he reminded the international community of the disaster brought upon his country by Hurricane Maria on September 18 this year.
“Hurricane Maria was reported to be one of the most rapidly intensifying storms in recent history. Our citizens barely had time to prepare before the ferocious winds and incessant rain began assaulting our nature island,” Skerrit told the COP23 that ends here on Friday.
The conference is discussing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015
Skerrit told the conference that the Category 5 storm left, according to the assessments conducted by the World Bank Group and other international agencies, 90 per cent of buildings either damaged or destroyed, over 22 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) wiped out with major damage sustained to agriculture, tourism and housing sectors.
He said public infrastructure was severely impacted and forests decimated.
“Two months later 95 per cent of the country remains without electricity, our water systems are compromised, and many citizens remain displaced and in shelters. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reality of climate change. Within a few hours an entire country was brought to its knees by the forces of nature.
“Two years ago we convened in a similar setting and signed on to the Paris accord. We pledged as an international community to take positive proactive steps to stem the tide of climate change. The developed world pledged funds to be made available for the mitigation and adaptation of the harmful effects of climate change.”
Skerrit said that Dominica knows the potential impact of climate change and of countries that may disappear.
“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of two hundred and twenty-four per cent of their GDP this year? Distinguished ladies and gentlemen I present to you today that our countries remain under threat.
“To ensure our very existence the world must do better. We argued at COP 21 for 1 degrees to stay alive – a commitment was made to two degrees but by all assessments we will not even achieve that goal.”
But he told the conference not enough is being done to ensure that the world effectively mitigate the warming of the planet
“How many of our vulnerable small island developing states have been able to access green climate funds to make us more climate resilient? What mechanism is there for us to be able to access emergency funds when facing a disaster like that caused by Maria?
“We have been put on the front line by others. We were the guardians of nature. We have not contributed to global warming. Sixty per cent of Dominica is covered by protected rain forests and has been so long before climate change.
“Our marine environment is similarly protected. We are on the front line and this is not a metaphorical war, or a metaphorical line,” he said, adding “it is one in which we bury the dead, console the grieving, nurse our wounds and call out for reinforcements.”
Skerrit said that SIDS were growing weary waiting for the world to hear their cries.
“We hear that now is the time to act. We read headlines of funds set aside. We smell the sweet fragrance of agreements, promises and commitments. But we grow weary waiting. Ladies and gentlemen, despite the hardship we face we have decided to raise our standard.
“We have publicly committed to the international community that we will rebuild ourselves as the first fully climate resilient nation in the Anthropocene. Our small island will shine the torch for others to follow. But, we grow weary.”
The Dominica Prime Minister said that the international community has an opportunity now to truly demonstrate its commitment to battling the effects of climate change, saying “we need you to partner with us to build a truly climate resilient nation a nation adapted to the new reality of fiercer, more frequent and more ferocious storms”.
Skerrit said that Wednesday night’s high level event provided the platform where a selection of non-party stake holders championed the critical message of accelerated climate action and how best to bridge the gap between non-party actors and negotiations.
“We call on all stakeholders to help us to rebuild better and smarter. Maria that winged messenger of climate change destroyed thousands of homes. US$200 million is required to rebuild in more suitable locations and to a standard that makes them climate resilient. We call on stakeholders to partner with us to rebuild. Maria destroyed our education and health sectors.”
Skerrit said that the World Bank Report supports that US$90 million is needed to rebuild and make schools, hospitals and clinics climate resilient in Dominica.
“We call on the global community to partner with us to help us take on that challenge. Maria ripped apart our water pipes. We need US$56 million to get running water again. US$37 million is needed to establish an entire system of climate resilient agriculture irrigation and food production
“Dominica needs US$15 million to complete an investment in geothermal that would provide a significant boost to its renewable energy sector. We are determined to restore our rainforests and protect our blue horizons. We have grasped the moment to be the change we want in this world.”
Skerrit told the conference that this isn’t a rash promise, saying “it is what we are struggling to do today.
“But battered as we are we stand before you today awake and tall to the challenge. We call for your assistance, support and partnership. We ask you to not allow climate change to be reduced to a cultural war fought from armchairs.
“We ask you not to allow the skeptics to sneer saying ‘I told you COP was all hot air’ and that ‘nothing real will change’. I urge you today not to betray the Paris Agreement! Operationalise Paris. Give meaning to Paris. Now. Not on paper, but here in this forum! Stand with us. Pledge today to help fund the first climate resilient nation,” Skerrit said.